These Parent-Approved Tablets for Kids Are Perfect for Work and Play

Brandon Carte
Photo credit: Amazon

From Best Products

When shopping for a tablet for your child, hardware specs like a fast processor or several gigabytes of RAM aren't the most important qualities to consider. Instead, durability, a long warranty, and the availability of parental controls are more practical features to keep in mind. Downloadable or pre-installed kid-friendly content is also essential.

We consulted with our parenting editor, Latifah Miles, whose 7-year-old son has gone through three tablets. She gave us the scoop on the features that she looks for when shopping for a kid-friendly tablet.

We also researched other publications, read parenting blogs, and scoured the internet for tablet reviews from parents to see which tablets they loved.

The Best Tablets for Kids at a Glance

Ready to discover exactly which tablet is best for keeping your child and your wallet happy? Learn more about top-rated tablets that are both kid- and parent-approved.

Best Overall

Hands-down, the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is the best tablet for kids that you can buy. It's the tablet of choice by our parenting editor for its tough build, 2-year warranty, 10-hour battery, and robust set of parental controls. The tablet's foam case — which comes in yellow, pink, or blue — protects it from drops and scratches. Even better, the Fire HD 8 comes with Amazon's 2-year "Worry-Free Warranty," which covers accidental damage. So, if your child jams a candy bar into the charging port or drops the whole thing in the toilet and renders it useless, Amazon will replace it, no questions asked.

The tablet runs Amazon's modified version of Android, so it doesn't have the Google Play Store on it, but it's much easier to use and navigate. You can change the user experience based on who's using the tablet, whether it be a child, teen, or parent, which is a feature the iPad lacks. Parents are able to set preferences that limit usage, block purchases, and protect against age-inappropriate content.

"The tablet is super easy for my son to use on his own, and it limits the amount of apps he has access to," Latifah Miles, our parenting editor, said. "It offers plenty of parental controls, which stop him from racking up hundreds of dollars on in-app purchases."

Amazon also gives buyers a 1-year subscription to FreeTime Unlimited, a content library that gives kids access to thousands of age-appropriate videos, books, games, and apps. The tablet is equipped with 32 GB of storage (the same amount as the cheapest iPad), and it supports microSD cards to add more room for movies and games. The Fire 8 HD Kids Edition also earned a high review score from Digital Trends for its outstanding warranty and easy setup.

For parents who have slightly older kids, we recommend the Amazon Fire HD 10, which doesn’t have the chunky bumper case, but offers a larger screen and faster processor. Teens will also love the smaller Fire HD 7 or Fire HD 8 tablets, which are ultra portable and typically cost between $50 and $100, depending which size hard drive you opt for. These traditional non-kids' editions of Fire HD tablets are also a better pick for parents who want to download videos from apps like Netflix for their children to watch without an internet connection.

"The children’s login doesn’t allow for popular downloads like Hulu, Netflix, or Youtube, which can be good and bad depending on your parenting style and kid. For me, it’s a minor con," said Miles. "My son's regular Kindle Fire allowed him to download movies to watch off of Wi-Fi, which was super helpful to keep him occupied while I ran errands that he didn’t find entertaining."

Best iPad

The iPad mini has a beautiful high-resolution 7.9-inch display, an impressive 10 hours of battery life, and an operating system that’s superior to any other option.

While testing the iPad mini, we found that it is well-designed and superbly crafted. It feels solid, but not heavy, and there are plenty of rugged cases to choose from that'll keep it in one piece when your child inevitably drops it. Most importantly, Apple's App Store has the widest selection of apps, games, and educational content in the business.

Despite all this, we don't think an iPad is the best kids tablet. The iPad mini — which costs $384 for consumers and $299 for schools — has some settings to prevent access to explicit content, and prevent in-app purchases, but parental controls are harder to access and get set up than on Amazon's tablets. This is a sentiment that Wirecutter also agrees with.

Additionally, the iPad lacks several key parental control features. For instance, there's no way to automatically shut off an iPad when it's time for bed and keep it powered down until morning, or incentivize good behavior with it (e.g., you can't reward your son with 15 minutes of game play after he reads for 30 minutes).

Fortunately, you can set a daily allotment of time for a specific app or app category (think games, social media, entertainment, etc.) on the iPad. Once time runs out, the iPad blocks access to those apps. Your son or daughter can ask you for time extensions, which is displayed as a notification on your own personal iOS device. But these notifications get annoying very quickly, and make it easy to cave in.

Geoffrey Fowler, a technology columnist at the Washington Post, said he was surprised at how difficult Apple's parental software was to use. "We also found loopholes. If you’re watching a video on Netflix and then press the home button to make it appear as a picture-in-picture, the minutes won’t count against your Screen Time limit. Junior could watch all day long," he said.

If you're fine with forfeiting advanced parental controls, your son or daughter will love an iPad. Plus, its processor makes it much faster and less frustrating to use over Amazon's tablets.

It's also worth mentioning that the iPad mini is more expensive than the 10.2-inch iPad 7th Generation. In our opinion, the iPad mini is better suited to children's small hands.

Not to mention, it's capable of running the same apps and games as the 7th Generation iPad and offers twice the storage space as the larger model for your child's apps, music, and videos. It still offers side-by-side multitasking capabilities and it lets you quickly jot down notes or sketches with Apple's convenient Pencil accessory.

Whether you opt for the iPad mini or the larger model, an iPad is so nice, you'll want to use it, too. However, we think the iPad's lack of parental controls and the complexity of the ones that do exist simply can't be ignored.

The Big-Screen Pick

If you're a believer that bigger is better, you won't be disappointed with this 10.1-inch tablet from Amazon. It's 30% faster than our best overall pick, and offers 20% better battery life. Additionally, it's one of the few kids’ tablets that uses the newer USB-C charging port. This comes in handy for kids because the tablet's charging cable is completely reversible, making it easy to plug in and charge the device.

You've probably noticed that it sports a similar kid-proof pink or blue bumper case like Amazon's other tablets. Besides its larger display, the main difference externally about the Fire HD 10 Kids Edition is that its case lets your child enjoy hands-free use via a built-in stand.

The tablet's powerful front-facing speakers and its 1,920 by 1,200 resolution display make for a better video watching experience, too. As you'd expect from an Amazon tablet, this model features easy-to-use parental controls, and includes access to Amazon's FreeTime Unlimited service, which includes thousands of kid-friendly apps, games, and books. Even better, it's backed by a 2-year worry-free guarantee.

Best for Toddlers

What's better than a virtual world designed for kids to grow intellectually? This tablet will adapt to your kid's learning level by adjusting the skill level for the different games and activities offered in the form of apps. New challenges will appear as your little brainiac hits mental milestones. Plus, we love its shatterproof screen for slippery fingers and tantrum throwers. It even has a kickstand for watching videos.

We're glad to see that the home screen is customizable, so your little one can easily access their favorite apps. The tablet challenges your child with problem-solving, and it'll help them explore topics in math, coding, spelling, reading, writing, and science. There are plenty of activities for your child to explore, but if they get tired of what's preinstalled, you'll have to pay for an $8-per-month subscription for new content, or purchase apps individually.

Like Amazon's tablet, this one runs a modified, but easy-to-navigate version of Android with parental controls and a kid-safe web browser. Although it's slower than an iPad, it's still equipped with 16 GB of expandable storage, dual cameras, Bluetooth, and a 7-hour battery.

LeapFrog sells another kids' tablet, dubbed the LeapPad Ultimate Ready for School Tablet. While the tablet comes with a handful of school readiness, music, and creativity-inspiring apps, unfortunately, several of the apps are only demos. We recommend the Academy edition over the other because it runs Android, has a web browser, and allows you to install apps from Amazon's app store without incurring additional charges.

A Slim Samsung Worth Shopping For

The lightweight Galaxy Tab A by Samsung sports a bright 8-inch display with a 1,280 by 800 HD resolution that's perfect for Netflix binges or reading under the covers at night. It comes in a durable bumper case to protect against bumps and drops and will feel safe in small hands.

If you plan to share the device with your child, this powerful and portable Android tablet also comes in a variant without the bumper case. If you want an even larger display, you can buy a bumper-less 10-inch variant, too.

Since the device has the Google Play Store on board, it's a great choice for teens who want to install social media apps — although we wish that its parental controls were as thorough as Amazon's tablet.

On the plus side, parents can install "Samsung Kids," an expansive library of educational games, books, and videos that are kid-friendly and easy to monitor and control.

The device is equipped with 32 GB of storage — perfect for parents who want to fill it up with plenty of videos and apps before a long road trip. And it has dual cameras that'll come in handy for Skyping the grandparents or making YouTube videos. Other highlights of the tablet include a powerful 2.0 GHz processor, 2 GB of RAM, expandable memory, and 13 hours of battery life, which together make it a powerful and capable pick for a reasonable price.

If you still have some questions about buying your child a tablet, take at look at our FAQ section below.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned

At what age should you give your child a tablet?

Like with any child-focused gadget, you should err on the side of caution and know that the device could be used to collect and sell data, or could be potentially compromised to listen in on your kids. So, it's necessary to use parental discretion to decide if you think a tablet is beneficial for your child to use.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids under 18 months avoid screen time — with the exception of video calls. The association advises that all screen time for kids aged 18 to 24 months occurs with a parent or guardian.

If you're curious about time limits, the association recommends limiting screen time to just an hour each day for kids aged 2 to 5. Children aged 6 and up can have increased usage, just as long as parents are setting time limits and restricting use to "high-quality" programming and apps.

Most experts also agree that you shouldn't give children a tablet around bedtime, and a tablet shouldn't get in the way of exercise, family socializing, or meal-time. The New York Times wrote an informative walk-through on how and when to limit kids' tech use that we also recommend checking out.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned

How do you pick a tablet?

Choosing a brand of kids’ tablet should ultimately come down to your child’s age. Manufacturers like LeapFrog and Amazon make tablets that are well-suited to younger kids because of their drop-proof bumpers and modified operating systems. For instance, Amazon’s bevy of kids' tablets runs a watered-down version of Android that's easier to use, and it doesn’t have the Google Play app store installed on it. Instead, it has the Amazon App Store, where you can install third-party, kid-friendly versions of apps. You’ll have to jump through more hoops to install apps like YouTube, Netflix, or TikTok than you would on a Samsung Android tablet or an Apple iPad.

When your kids get older, they’ll probably want a more grown-up-looking tablet that looks like the one you use. Of course, you can “open up” Amazon and LeapFrog tablets to allow access to regular Android apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok when you decide the time is right. Amazon's Fire tablets even have different user experiences depending on which type of profile (Child, Teen, or Adult) you select when you set it up.

No matter how many settings you modify, however, you can’t change the tablet’s kid-centric, brightly colored, and well-protected exterior. Your son or daughter probably already knows what a real tablet looks like, because they've almost certainly borrowed an iPad or Android tablet in the past from a friend, a relative, or even you.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned

What apps are included?

Kids' tablets oftentimes come pre-installed with kid-friendly apps and web browsers, and they can even offer parental controls to limit usage and prevent in-app purchases. For example, Amazon’s FreeTime Unlimited service offers instant access to thousands of books, educational apps, videos, and games that are perfectly suited for kids 10 and younger. The service — which is available in English or Spanish — costs $2.99 each month, but when you buy an Amazon Kids tablet, you get a 1-year subscription for free.

LeapFrog and Samsung’s tablets also have kid-centric platforms that are quite good. LeapFrog Academy is a learning service aimed at preschoolers aged 3 to 6 years old, and it costs $7.99 a month with a 1-month free trial. It’s packed full of books, games, puzzles, videos, and music, all centered around traditional school subjects to inspire creativity, problem-solving, and social skills. LeapFrog also sells a $39.99 6-month plan and $69.99 annual plan for additional savings.

Samsung’s service, aptly named Samsung Kids, is suited for kids 3 to 8 years old, and it costs $7.99 each month (or $59.99 for a year). Your subscription includes an expansive library of educational games, books, and videos featuring some of your child's favorite characters from shows like Super WHY, the Octonauts, and My Little Pony.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned

What about the iPad?

The iPad doesn't have a kid-centric subscription service, unless you include its game-centered Apple Arcade service, but it does offer the widest catalogue of apps out of any tablet that we've named. Priced typically more than $300 after tax, you may deem it too expensive for your child.

Today, the tech giant sells a slightly more affordable version, the iPad 7th Generation, which comes with a larger 10.2-inch screen (compared to the iPad mini's 7.9-inch one), 32 GB of storage, the lesser A10 processor, and support for the Apple Pencil. Although we think that iPads offer the best selection of apps, games, and educational content in the business, we think that you should only buy one for your son or daughter if they're responsible enough to take care of one — especially considering their steep asking price and shortage of parental controls.

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